Isn’t it time to make precision marketing great again?

sarahThe term precision marketing has become something of a catch-all. It’s been dragged through the mud, misused and misunderstood so many times that the fundamental USPs have been lost.
It was supposed to be an exercise in hyper-relevance. Customer retention and revitalisation. Instead, we’re more likely to encounter it in retargeted banner ads for things you’ve either bought already, or never really wanted in the first place.
Basically, it’s become a dirty term.
However, it should offer a ray of light in a post-GDPR market, in which more than one in five Brits actively block ads. The terminology is what’s holding us back and we need a new lexicon to communicate why it represents the future of marketing.
But to understand how to do so, we need to identify what the advantages of precision are for all parties, but equally be frank about where the problems lie. Precision marketing is, in essence, data-led actionable insight. While that’s a bit of a mouthful, it’s pretty accurate.
The theory is, marketers use the information you have on customers/prospects to better tailor their ‘experience’. In practice, it doesn’t always work out that way. The problem is, brands and agencies haven’t moved with the times and (for example) may still be using the six customer archetypes as their go-to strategy. This is entirely retrograde and unlikely to produce the type of results that really demonstrate what precision targeting can do – when it’s used effectively.
As a result, the idea of precision marketing still falls under spray-and-pray for some. If the personalisation doesn’t shine through, it will be just as ineffective as the paid-for stuff it aspires to trump.
But who can we really blame for this situation – the marketers, agencies, the brands themselves? The fact is marketing budgets are constrained, brands want agencies to do more for less, yet the idea of active segmentation has been devalued. It’s straight-up cognitive dissonance that’s been allowed to fester. Nobody wins.
So, how can the industry, as a whole, rehabilitate precision?
First, we need to look at what new technologies bring to the approach. I’m not going to spout endless hyperbole about how machine learning will single-handedly change advertising; what I can say from experience, though, is that AI-assisted software will make your data work harder for you.
Let’s say you’re already armed with your own data-sets based on customer location, gender, age and so on. You can build a better picture, sure. How about you then mix your data-sets with a third party’s? That way, you ensure value and relevance. Then, on top of that, your AI system’s always learning, scanning the segments for patterns, working out which sub-set responds best to which action. It’s stripping out the crunching, working the angles that a tired, data-blind human might well miss. It’s a more efficient way of dealing with the back-end of a project or campaign.
Machine learning allows you to extract the richness from data to the extent that you can pre-empt what people want and need at any given time with pinpoint accuracy. That’s the ‘new’ precision and it’s something both prospects and brands will benefit from tenfold.
More hot leads for brands, more things customers actually want and less spam. Everyone wins.

Sarah De Martin is UK managing director at data-driven marketing agency Artefact

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